There’s one thing that’s true about success: some people achieve it and some don’t. Your choices, actions and attitude ultimately dictate whether you are successful or not. The definition of success varies from person to person, but generally people want to do well in their lives and in their chosen careers.
If you’ve chosen a career in the IT industry, it’s important to lay down the groundwork for success. Whether you’re a rank and file programmer, an entrepreneur bringing your own product to market, the CEO of your own startup or a consultant working on projects, there are certain qualities that are simply essential for an IT professional in order to succeed.
- Focus – when Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were asked what the single most important thing was to their success, they said, “Focus.” In your context, this is a two-fold meaning: the ability to concentrate on a task at hand to the exclusion of everything else, and having a clear singular goal that you work towards. The former governs how you go about your day-to-day activities, the latter dictates the choices that you do. In the IT field, it’s especially important to have the former when working: multi-tasking was all the rage in the 90’s and early 2000’s but experts have now come to realize that focusing on the task at hand is the better, more productive way. Keep focused while writing those lines of code! Losing that focus could mean redoing hours of work. Keep your wits about you and you’ll do well in this field.
- Adaptability – the IT industry is a busy field that covers a lot of ground. Your role may be “Network Administrator,” but don’t think for a moment that your job is only going to be configuring a domain or an Exchange server. You will be hit on all sides by network issues, hardware problems, and you’ll even be the go-to person for anyone in the company having problems with their computer. You will need to have the skills to adapt to all these situations. You are never going to know what’s on your plate for the day. You’ll need to be prepared with the knowledge and know-how or you’ll be stuck watching others do things.
- Forward-Thinking – in this business, you can’t simply rest on your laurels. The next big thing is always on the horizon. Your newly-earned Microsoft Professional Certification got you in the door, but how is it helping you compete with all the iOS and Android app developers who are now making millions out of their garages? Seeing trends is the name of the game and riding one before it plays out can make all the difference in the world. Steve Jobs famously quoted Wayne Gretzky, who said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.” Instead of looking at what worked for people in the past, the key to success is looking to where the opportunity is going to be. Which leads us to…
- Always Learning – it’s not just figuring out what’s new on the horizon, it’s becoming an expert on what’s new on the horizon. Maybe you foresaw that the iOS App Store was going to become a big wave in the future; did you get an Apple Developer Kit and learn how to use it? And it doesn’t end there. It never does. The moment new tech is released, it’s already obsolete. Keep that desire to learn and stay on top strong.
- Patience – IT has the peculiar designation of requiring you to work not only with people, but with machines. A great amount of patience is needed working with people – clients and users who demand things be done and be done now. But what happens when you try to work out a solution and the computer simply stops working and spazzes out? A divine level of patience is needed in these scenarios and it’s something you will be dealing with day-to-day in the IT business.
- Persistence – Steve Jobs once said that the biggest difference between a successful entrepreneur and a non-successful one was perseverance. Having been thrown out of the company he founded, failing a startup and working back up from ground zero, he finally got back into Apple to launch the iPhone, which arguably was the single most important change in telecommunications industry that defined what the modern smartphone is today. He may just be on to something. In this business, you will often find yourself in situations where the answer is not in sight and repeated failures start piling up. Keep going. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Well-Networked – this isn’t the kind where you are plugging ethernet cables into a router or a switch. The well-to-do IT worker is the well-connected one. Whether you’re an office worker, a consultant, an entrepreneur or the CEO of your company, you are going to need to know people to succeed. Have a problem with that software project you were coding? You need help from a guru. Want to get that new Kickstarter project off the ground? You need the people with the expertise to make it happen. How about that new business merger that would cause your stock to skyrocket? Yes, you need to know the right people. Make sure you are well-connected, get a list of go-to people and know how to leverage their expertise. Nobody is perfect, but you can always surround yourself with people who can pick up the slack.
- Passion – lastly, all of this means nothing if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. If you don’t love technology, then the IT field is not for you. Getting into the right field based on what you want to do is the single most-important thing you can do for yourself. Without that passion, all that is awaiting you is a dull, lifeless career without meaning.
Working in the IT Industry is challenging, it’s a very demanding field. However, if you come prepared with the right attitude, success will be waiting just around the corner.